Does This Say Elisha?

’Elisha’ Ostracon from Tel Rehov

I’m not so sure.
Now does it say Elisha?

’Elisha Ostracon’ from Tel Rehov - higlighted

Maybe.
These images are slightly enhanced screen captures from a CBN News video about Amihai Mazar uncovering of a rather strange building from 9th century BCE Tel Rehov. Tel Rehov is in the Jordon valley near Beit She’an. The first image was on the screen for little more than a single frame at which point the red tracing was superimposed. Archeologists discovered the ostracon in the strange building.
Both the written and the video reports claim that this strange building may well have been the house of the Biblical prophet Elisha. The evidence for such an extraordinary claim is transparently thin. Of course, that didn’t keep Cary Summers of Nazareth Village for making this wild remark, “Well, it’s like any other archeological site, in essence…every scoop of dirt it proves the Bible, one scoop at a time. And this site is absolutely magnificent dealing with the prophet Elisha.” Nonsense – but it may help the local economy.
But Summers’ mockable remark is not the only weird thing about this report. To my mind the ostracon is the best evidence that this building had anything to do with some Elisha or other. Yet it is buried rather deep in the article (and the video), after a discussion of an outside area with incense burners and the supersized serving vessels. I’d think the inscribed this pot shard would be the lead of the story.
By the way, the name Elisha (אלישע) is found at least once and possibly twice on one Ostracon from Samaria (S 1:4, 7[?] and perhaps once on another (S 41:1). For the sake of convenience (mine) I am using Gogel’s designations. The name is also found twice on an ostracon from Arad (A 24:15, 19-20). From context it is rather clear that these Elishas are not the Biblical Elisha. They are also likely from later centuries. I think the name is also known elsewhere but I’m too lazy to track down the references if there are any. There doesn’t seem to be any remaining textual context for the name, if it is a name, on the ostracon from Tel Rehov. The archeological context, no matter how strange, isn’t really helpful.
As usual, we await a properly published report on the ostracon and on the strange building.

One thought on “Does This Say Elisha?”

  1. Dear Duane, I really agree with you. It is good that you show the actual though unfortunately blurred photograph of the ostracon in addition to the reconstruction in red. I do think that it may well say Elisha but if you look carefully on the left hand side you see that there is evidence of another letter too, which to me suggests that the name Elisha is not the full name found here. The letter to the left could be part of a yod, in which case the full name could be Elishayau (northern spelling of Elishayahu). But I agree the reading Elisha(..) is not the only possibility. The photograph is too unclear to know for sure and I think there was a lot of wishful thinking involved. Eve so, the name Elisha is very common (also in Judah and Ammon) and there is really no need to see the prophet himself here. Quite to the contrary, though the picture is admittedly blurred, the forms of the letters rather suggest a date close to the time of the Samaria ostraca towards the mid 8th century BC. Best wishes Peter

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